Day 214: Hello from the other side

Since yesterday I wrote about positive words, let’s think today about the opposite. You know, interviewers tend to ask about the “biggest weakness.” It’s sort of a silly question, because nobody is going to tell an interviewer, “I’m a liar,” or “I have a really hard time not dating my coworkers.” Everyone tries to answer that question in the most positive way possible. I’ve heard some doozies (e.g., “I’m really horrible at any kind of technology!” Really?), but most people just say they can’t think of anything. (Again, really?)

It’s worthwhile to know what you’re good at, and what you need to work on. But if you’re in a spot where you’re meeting someone for the first time, you don’t need to be too informative on either one. What’s really helpful is to think of some examples so that you can tell some stories. Stories stick with people much more than data or basic statements.

Here’s an example:

I’m a super communicator, but my strength is really in business communication…in particular, writing so that people get a concept simply, and clearly. Though I used to stand up in front of large classrooms and teach, I don’t feel that comfortable with presentations anymore. So I joined Toastmasters and met some great people who gave me encouragement and confidence while I practiced my speeches on them. After a year, I even won a local and an area contest. It’s a skill I’d like to practice more frequently so that I can continue to improve.

That’s a true story. It tells of something I’m not great at, and how I worked to improve. It shows stepping out of my comfort zone to work on something that is meaningful to both me and a potential company.

It’s not bad to know your weaknesses. Everybody has them. If you don’t have be good at a thing, you may not choose to work on that weakness. (Say you’re a circus performer, do you need to work on your weakness of frog dissecting? Probably not.) But you may choose to work on a weakness simply for the love of learning, or to better yourself, or for the challenge.

And one final thing: Marcus Buckingham says that too much of strength can be a weakness, so be careful that you don’t overexert your strengths. Too much communicating can drive people crazy. Overanalyzing can stymie a project. Adaptability may be a strength, but too much adapting can leave you without a clear path. All good things but they can get awkward if you overuse them.

Being self-aware is a great step to keeping you balanced. Let’s practice.

DAY 214 HOMEWORK: Yesterday, you worked on your strengths. Today, pick one or two things you’re not so great at. Then, decide if you need to improve them. Will it further your career, or your relationships? It’s probably worth pursuing some improvement. Is it likely you’ll never need it? Then, pick something else to work on. Once you have your weakness, think about how you’ve worked on it to improve it. If you haven’t started yet, consider what you can do to take that first step.



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